Virtual Consultant

Welcome to  our Virtual Consultant Service. This is an online service to be used as a family might use a private consultant in planning for a person needing significant therapeutic help or behavioral change. Let the Internet be your consultant. For USD$25.00 per month you have unlimited access to our online guidance in planning for a family member and search for a therapeutic facility. Once you subscribe/ become a member, you are guaranteed access at that amount for at least one year. (We hope to continue the rate at which anyone initially subscribes indefinitely for that person.  We reserve the right to re-visit that after one year.)

This service may also be useful to a novice consultant  wanting guidance and/ or a client already working with a consultant and seeking a second opinion inexpensively.

This includes ability to ask questions of our experienced Educational/ Therapeutic consultant. Not everything you might want to know is already showing on the website. If you inquire about what you wanted to find here but did not, please ask about it. We will specifically to your question. In addition that might prompt us to add or revise something you have prompted us to consider.

If you are a client of ours for in-person consulting, you are entitled to full access without charge. Let us know and we will provide an account giving full access at no additional charge.

We believe most families trying to choose a service on the web tend to begin their task by simply starting out looking at webpages of schools and programs. If you  choose to do that we will support that to the best of our ability. The most thorough families will begin with a more step by step process. If you follow our advice for maximum thoroughness, we urge you to start with our Planning Process. If you prefer to consider accessing resources a la carte, keep reading. Our resources for families wanting to plan online are shown below. If the resource named is accessible only to subscribers/ members, our link will take you to a publicly accessible "Introduction" page so you can decide whether subscribing will take you to information that warrants a subscription.

What's New?      Look here to see what might have changed since the last time you were here.

  1. Planning Approach  This is a description of the steps we think families should go through if seeking the services this website is about.
  2. School/ Program/ Other Entity Index  Open to the general public, we attempt to  list every school or program or related business or organization in the scope of this website.
  3. "Warnings"  This page is a must read for families seeking services without guidance from a truly neutral sourceGuidelines for Schools and Programs had occupied this space. Click on link for further information regarding Guidelines.  
  4. School/ Program reviews  Many of the schools and programs with which we are familiar are in this section.  Complete up to date reviews are for members only, but each has an "Introduction" page accessible to the public.
  5. Major Provider Groups  Like school and program reviews, these are about the provider companies that operate groups of schools and programs (or market on behalf of schools and programs).          
  6. School and Program Search function For members only, input the characteristics you want to see in a service provider and the schools and programs that meet those characteristics emerges.           
  7. Gradings and Ratings  A,B,C,D, F grades on schools and programs     
  8. Schools and Programs Most in Play  listings of some of the most popular venues.       
  9. Issues of Concern  A broad range of topics that are important for families to know something about in order to make very wise choices.               
  10. Discussion You may share your knowledge and opinions with others.       
  11. Ask Questions You may ask questions of FamilyLight.            
  12. Thorough records review  For members with an additional charge we will review your records and respond with suggestions of what that tells us about the kinds of resources needed              
  13. Recommended Reading  Reading material that might benefit families seeking help.    

What's New?      Look here to see what might have changed since the last time you were here.

More information regarding these same items  (remember that if the item is by subscription/ membership only, the link will take you to an introductory page accessible to everyone):

  1. Planning Method -- A step by step process for families to follow in planning for a young person with special needs, including but not limited to selection of a school or treatment program. A competent and conscientious consultant will pay serious attention to all elements of this planning process although they might describe what they are doing in different words. We are improving this section.  If something is not sufficiently clear to you as a signed-in member, or you don't see how it applies to your situation, use the comment box at the bottom of the page to ask for clarification.  Signed in members use this link to the Planning Method.   Back to top.
  2. School/ Program/ Other Entity Index:  We have developed a comprehensive index of schools, programs and related services for USA special needs families seeking services in the private sector. "Related Services" include parent organizations, transport companies, and financing organizations, among other possibilities. Entries are linked to our references throughout this website plus websites of the entity at issue. For detail, follow the link at the start of this paragraph. This feature is and will remain publicly accessible.  Back to top.
  3. Warnings  Our section on Warnings is a must read for any family seeking services without professional guidance (apart from this website) from a neutral source. Huge amounts of money are moving around in the businesses at issue here. Not all of it goes to people of good will. Be Careful!!!  (This space had been occupied by Guidelines for Schools and Programs.  Follow link to see that topic.)  Back to top.
  4. School/ Program reviews:  Incisive commentary on programs and other organizations of interest with your feedback welcomed.  For the lead page over all reviews, click here.  For the page specific to reviews of schools and programs, click here.  All active reviews (new format and old format) are listed with links on our reviews and discussion page.  Our reviews are sometimes objective, sometimes highly subjective, but never biased by advertising or other undisclosed conflicts of interest. Some of our old reviews are in the old format. (In that case check date carefully) The newer ones have a brief introduction in the public area (new format), but only members will have access to the full review and the comments from others on the full review.  Non members may contribute and read comments regarding  the publicly accessible short introductions in the new format. Program Reviews (This link goes to a publicly accessible page.) Back to top.
  5. Major Provider Groups: --  Information and reviews about companies that own schools and programs, associations, marketing groups and multi-program foundations.  Back to Top
  6. School and Program Search function: Tell the computer a characteristic of the person in need.  The computer responds with names of schools and programs that fit that description, and enough additional information to get you started learning more about those schools and programs.  This tool helps members/ subscribers to sort out schools and programs quickly and efficiently. This tool is fully accessible only to members, (although descriptions and instructions  about the service are visible to public. Schools and programs included are those of greater than local interest (usually residential) routinely serving families the paying for services themselves.  We do not include schools and programs that depend exclusively on public funding sources, except in a few cases programs supported exclusively or nearly so by public school district funding pursuant to IDEA. We now have over 100 traits/ characteristics of schools and programs entered into our system as categories and tags (members can see most of them if you look a the "category" menu on the left side of this page).  We are initially putting priority on schools and programs for the youngest children and will then move to focus on tweeners, then teens and finally adults.
    1. Currently (June 2016) we have nearly 100 school/program  entries in all age groups, and this will grow rapidly.   We have achieved substantially comprehensive inclusion of schools and programs serving USA special needs pre-teens whose parents are choosing the venue (as opposed to public agencies). 
    2. Then we move to complete our data entry on programs serving all those under age 18 before moving to adults. We believe that it is now a useful tool, but one that will soon be much more valuable.  Back to Top
  7. Gradings and Ratings: A system of Grades A+ through F for schools and programs. Introduction page tells you which schools and programs we have rated.  Main Page accessible to Members/ Subscribers only shows the letter grades.  Back to Top
  8. Schools and Programs Most in Play. (If you are a signed in member, click here instead)  This section identifies programs (by category) that are getting the most attention from families who are prepared to pay for the best of services, supplemented with a few schools and programs we think ought to be in that category.  Some of those we include are places that are popular but to which we would not refer. The Introduction page tells readers the categories in which we have cited "most in play." The listings of specific schools and programs is only on the main pageBack to Top
  9. Issues of Concern:  Information and opinion on many topics that matter to people with special needs and their families. This where we express our opinions and invite others to do so.  Again, the old ones are in the public area; newer ones are member/ subscriber access only. Some other older entries might be found at the following links, but all are cataloged and linked at Issues of Concern.  Also of interest: 
    1. Guidelines for Schools and Programs (This area is part of our "Old Format," and is quite extensive. It is available to all without membership.  Although it was written quite a few years ago it still gives good insight into our thinking on matters we now place under Issues of Concern. Please note these Guidelines pages are publicly accessible while much information under Issues of Concern is restricted to members/ subscribers.).  This information will at some future time be updated and relocated into the New Format. Like all Old Format pages this is publicly accessible.
    2. Topics of Interest,  Old Format
    3. Topics of Interest, New Format.  Same  information as Issues of Concern.
    4. Back to Top      
  10. Discussion:  Share thoughts and opinions with other members.  Currently this is limited to Comment section on pages in New Format (including pages like this that are open to the public -- See Rules). Note well:  When you post a comment, once approved, it will show your name as you are registered with us (members/ subscribers) or as you enter it when you post (visitors). We invite you to use an assumed first name and "anonymous" for your last name or family name. Members: to change your registered name, hover your cursor over  "name" in the upper right corner  of the screen, then click on "edit profile."   Back to Top
  11. Ask Questions -- All users may ask questions and get an answer. See  "Ask a FamilyLight a Question."  Our procedures have changed (November 1, 2017).  Please do as requested in this link. To keep your question anonymous, please follow instructions on that pageBack to Top   
  12. We will also do a thorough records review and give you suggestions on using that information in your planning process. This is a fee based service.  Click here for Records Review information.  Back to Top       
  13. Recommended Reading:  We want every client to read Lynne Forrest's "Three Faces of Victim"  Two books  likely to be helpful for families and for therapeutic endeavors are The Anatomy of Peace and Leadership and Self Deception.  These are fictional works, where the stories told are about people learning and initially applying Arbinger principles.  Both are part of the life story of the fictional story of Lou Herbert, a fictional business man with a very challenging teen-aged daughter.  In The Anatomy of Peace, Lou and his wife and daughter learn Arbinger principles in a therapeutic context.   In Leadership and Self Deception, Lou is applying the Arbinger principles to his business and in the process learns more about applying these principles in family situations.   (This section is being developed.  Many additional recommendations will be coming, but the Lynne Forrest article is key to almost everyone in need of these services; the books apply to most.) Back to top.

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Some additional information:

Consultants who will work individually and intensively with a family on a planning and searching process will always be needed for some families. Some may find that doing this well using only web resources is too difficult a task and will seek a consultant after attempting to get the job done by subscribing here. We believe we offer the highest quality service available when that is needed for people with special needs. Read about our individual and personal service. 

We accept no paid advertising. Where potential conflict of interest exists, we disclose it. Some of what we share is controversial. When we know that well respected consultants disagree with us we usually report that.

Most pages that are accessible only to paid subscribers/ members are paired with an "Introduction" page that is open to the public. If you are not a paid member but are potentially interested in accessing the information on a page, you can go to the Introduction page to get a glimpse of what is available on the paired members' page. This will help you to decide if it is worth becoming a member to access that information. Generally links on a page that is publicly accessible go to Introduction pages and other pages that are publicly accessible unless the word "members" (linked to page use to become a member) appears next to that link.

Please read our full disclaimer. You are responsible for verifying our information before acting on it.

Subscribe/ Become a member

See our current promotion  We always have at least two pages that are normally for members/ subscribers only that we offer to non-members without charge.

Last updated August 14, 2018

2 thoughts on “Virtual Consultant

  1. I have received an inquiry from a father who is a member, but is having technical issues with accessing the member areas of this website. So he emailed his question. He says,

    “I am looking for therapeutic boarding school with specific support for Level I ASD for 16 year old currently in wilderness camp. High average IQ, but low processing speed and executive function issues. A very recent psychological test compared to a prior one revealed the Level I ASD. His social anxiety (probably seeking to fit in) drove him to THC use, which we believe is secondary as his way to deal with the Level I ASD. “

    “He is currently at Aspiro doing well there but ready to move on after over 2 months there. We don’t want to repeat mistakes of the past. It needs to be a place with high structure, small classrooms, and ability to deal with potential setbacks (i.e. THC or nicotine use) without risk of expulsion. College preparatory would be a plus (he wants to go to college and finished 1st semester of 10th grade last December, when he got in trouble and was expelled from a traditional boarding school who didn’t offer the structure or support he needed.

    “What are your thoughts?”

    I will post a response shortly.

    • Just going by your description that I posted above, I don’t have enough to come up with a specific recommendation, but I can tell you where to look — and where you might encounter difficulties.

      First, the schools and programs that specialize in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) tend not to be strong in addressing substance abuse issues, and vice versa. I can’t be certain from what you wrote which to emphasize. Other communications you have sent me suggest that you have had turndowns at New Summit Academy (Costa Rica) Telos, and a few others. Those are facilities looking at a more generalized population, specializing in neither ASD nor substance abuse, but having had some success with each.

      So my recommendations are suggestions of where to look, not firm recommendations that the programs are right for you, since I don’t have enough knowledge of your son.

      I am surprised you have not mentioned Daniels Academy. That is owned by the same people who own Aspiro, is focused on ASD I, and has well controlled positive interaction with the surrounding community. I know that the Aspiro folks try not to over-sell Daniels, as they maintain a high ethical standard. But Daniels probably deserves a good look. Look at the location of their overnight facility and their interaction with the the town recreation center in Heber City. Black Mountain Academy in North Carolina appeals to me for some of the same reasons, although these programs are certainly not clones of each other.

      I understand you have had some communication with Summit Prep in Montana. My experience with them is quite positive. I also see them as quite skilled in assessing with whom they are able to work successfully. They have positive experience with both ASD I and substance abuse, although they do not claim a specialization in either. It is more of a therapeutic school rather than an RTC, which should lead to a lower cost.

      Looking at the more generalized programming, I suggest a close look at Equinox in Bat Cave (no I’m not kidding about the town’s name), North Carolina. I like it for many of the same reasons why I like Telos.

      Here is a generality that may be unfair, and use it with caution. As much as I respect and appreciate twelve step approaches to substance use and addiction, I would hesitate to use use a facility primarily focused on twelve step recovery. It might be OK, but check carefully to be sure that the facility staff is highly skilled in teaching teens with ASD and in equally skilled in methods of teaching boys with ASD how to apply 12 step methods.

      Last but not least, I would suggest consideration of the Spark Academy within the Heritage Community. Please note that I am in conflict of interest where Heritage is concerned. I was once on their marketing staff. I know you are in communication with another consultant. Heritage came into disfavor with consultants in general, for many years leading up to 2012. Beginning then they began to re-invent themselves and the improvements are dramatic. If your other consultant is hesitant about Heritage, make sure they have had a close look there since the turnaround that began in or about 2012. Spark Academy is certainly skilled with ASD I, and I do not think Heritage would be uncomfortable with a co-morbidity in the substance abuse area.

      With more in-depth knowledge of your son’s situation, I could probably be more specific. Please take this as generalities, worthy of exploration, not as final recommendations.

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